You, like so many Americans today, are probably on the market constantly for your next gun. I sure am. The current gun of choice for a large portion of people is the AR 15. It’s an awesome platform. I think that we are all grateful for Eugene Stoner and his original Armalite design.
I want to narrow down the best AR 15 for the money for this year so we’ll go through a few different price ranges, starting with budget ARs and ending with some higher end rifles.
The AR is a great choice, with a ton of great accessories and parts to make the rifle even better (like AR 15 scopes or handguards or grips), and we hope we can help you settle on what AR 15 you want and can afford.
There are some really great AR 15 rifles from very reputable manufacturers out there today. The nice thing about the AR 15 market being so popular right now is that there are some very affordable rifles available to you.
When choosing a the best budget AR 15 for the money, you should definitely take a look at a few of these options:
Smith and Wesson Sport 15 II
The Smith and Wesson Sport 15 II is probably the most popular AR 15 we have in our budget range. It was one of the top (if not the top) selling AR 15’s of 2016. It is a solid rifle with some great features, and I am a big fan of Smith and Wesson and all the awesome stuff they have to offer.
As the “II” denotes, the Sport 15 II is the second generation of Smith and Wesson’s AR. It is a very simple setup, but has some great quality for the price.
The Sport 15 II, made here in America, comes standard with a fixed iron front sight and a Magpul flip-up rear sight, making it easy to shoot right out of the box. There is a large section of picatinny rail along the upper receiver, allowing you to mount a solid red dot sight.
The Sport 15 II comes standard with some awesome features, including a dust cover, forward assist, charging handle, and an adjustable stock. It operates on a carbine-length gas system.
The Sport II has a 16 inch barrel with a 1:9 twist rate, making mid-range shots a little easier, but not giving up close quarters ability.
Almost all AR 15’s are very customizable, giving you endless possibilities to get what you want out of your personal rifle. The Sport 15 II is no different, with many aftermarket parts either offered specifically for the Sport 15, or that will work with it.
There are also models that come with Magpul furniture already installed for a bit more money.
The Sport 15 II from Smith and Wesson makes a great budget AR. You will be able to get a lot of bang for your buck with this particular riffle.
The Ruger AR556 is another great budget friendly choice. Ruger has been making their AR since around 2009 here in the United States, and it is a great model. It has around the same price range as the Sport 15 II, and a lot of similar specs and options.
The AR556 comes with the standard 16 inch barrel and has a 1:8 twist rate, a little different than its Smith and Wesson counterpart. It comes out of the box with sights as well, a front sight that can be adjusted for elevation (tool included) and a Ruger brand rear sight.
This rifle comes with some cool features like an enlarged trigger guard for easy shooting even with gloved hands. The AR556 comes with a Magpul PMag out of the box as well.
The AR556 is chambered in, you guessed it, 5.56x45mm NATO, making it possible to shoot both .223 Remington and 5.56 rounds through it. It has a heat resistant hand guard, which makes shooting many rounds through the rifle possible.
Again, this rifle is very customizable and affordable, and if those are things you are looking for, the Ruger AR556 might be for you.
DPMS Oracle A3
Out of all the rifles here in our budget range, the DPMS Oracle A3 is currently the cheapest option, and yet still a good choice.
It does not come out of the box with sights, but this may be what you are looking for. If you are looking to put your own optic on the Oracle A3, like a red dot, it is ready for that.
You can also purchase iron sights if you desire them. There is a smaller section of picatinny rail in front of the handguard, making it easy to find a set of sights to put on this rifle if you so desire.
The Oracle A3 has a 16-inch barrel with a 1:9 twist rate, another difference between this rifle and the Smith and the Ruger options.
Honestly, the Oracle A3 would be a great choice for you if you are looking for a very simple AR 15 that is optics ready. It is a solid rifle, and also not terrible on your wallet.
Here in our mid-range section, we’ll go over a couple of rifles, one well known and one a little newer to the market, that both have a bit higher quality than the above budget options, but also come in a little higher in price.
Colt has been a longtime maker of AR 15 rifles, and the AR6721 fits right into the well established lineup Colt has going for themselves. Out of Colt’s current options, this one is a great choice. Colt has a long history of manufacturing quality products that are reliable under some pretty dire circumstances.
Colt AR 15 style rifles have been used by many governments in the United States, from the federal level, all the way down to the local level in police cars. Colt rifles definitely perform under pressure.
The AR6721 is Colt’s lightweight rifle, and is definitely one of the best AR-15’s for the money. This particular model (as well as other Colt models) has been used by law enforcement quite a bit.
This model comes with a carbine length gas system, front and rear sights included, and a 16 inch barrel. The barrel has a 1:7 twist rate, which is different than all the other rifles we’ve discussed up to this point. This means that, depending on your bullet weight, you can debatably shoot farther with this rifle.
Colt has a name that has been established in the firearms world for a long time. They have manufactured firearms that have been used all around the world by the United States armed forces. Picking the AR6721 model from Colt would definitely be a great choice if it is the kind of rifle you are looking for.
Springfield Armory Saint
Springfield has really stepped up their AR 15 game in the last couple years. Their AR platform is the Saint, and they have made some awesome additions to their lineup, some things that are definitely exciting for this particular point of view here in the mid-range budget area.
The Saint comes with a lot of the standard features from above, a 16 inch barrel with a 1:8 twist, but there are some big differences as well.
To be honest, this is where we really start getting into what I think is great about the AR 15, with more and better options for customizing as well as different things like different gas system lengths and their benefits, as well as things as simple as furniture for your AR.
With the Springfield Saint, there are a few different model options, but the one that we recommend and the one we want to talk about here is the Saint with a free float handguard. Free float handguards offer a lot of great advantages to you as an AR 15 owner.
Handguards: Free Float vs Drop In
To explain briefly, there are 2 main styles of handguards in the AR world, drop in and free float. All of the previous rifles on this list come with drop in style handguards, meaning that the handguard itself is fairly easy to install and/or replace with a new one.
With the drop in style, the delta ring just needs to be depressed for the handguard to be installed. Drop in handguards are generally cheaper and offer less space for mounting tools and accessories to your AR.
Free float handguards, on the other hand, are a little bit more complicated to install, but offer much more customizability and usually lend to a bit more accuracy as a result of them not touching the barrel (which is where the term free float comes from).
Free float handguards are attached to the upper receiver and can come with a few different mounting options; picatinny rail that is an integral part of the handgaurd itself, M-LOK mounting options or Keymod (KMR) mounting options. The choice is yours.
The Saint is the first rifle on this list that we have talked about that has a free float handguard at its price. A lot of these other manufacturers offer this free float handguard option in a different model than the ones we have discussed, but honestly those can be a bit pricey for what you’re getting.
If you’re looking for bang for your buck in a free float AR platform, the Saint may be for you. The Saint is also the first rifle on the list that we’ve discussed that offers a mid-length gas system.
The gas length on an AR is not incredibly important to everyone, but the mid-length gas system usually lends to a bit less felt recoil to the shooter, which is an advantage.
The Saint’s handguard is made from Aluminum with M-LOK mounting slots, making it possible for a large variety of accessories to be mounted to it in another large variety of positions with ease. The Saint also includes a PMAG and adjustable rear and front sights out of the box.
Another great feature that Springfield has included in the Saint platform is that they are using Bravo Company (BCM) furniture, including a Bravo Company stock and pistol grip. Bravo Company makes great AR 15 parts and also great complete rifles (they actually make the next one we’ll talk about) so adding their furniture to the Saint was a great move.
The Springfield Armory Saint with the free float handguard option is a great gun for the price that it is offered at. If you are looking for the best AR 15 for your the money on a budget, I would definitely take a look at this one.
Higher End ($1000-$1500)
Alright, now we enter the high end, high quality AR 15 rifle zone. These are the ones that are coveted by many. This is the range that I have decided to buy my rifle from, though it wasn’t my first choice.
When I first started looking for an AR 15 for myself, I was looking for something that I wouldn’t have to spend a lot of money on. I wanted to be able to get one quickly and get out and start shooting it.
I was discussing options with my brother-in-law, who knows me and what I like pretty well, and I was telling him that I was planning on buying one of the budget rifles listed above. And then he changed my mind. I’m somebody who likes to own quality products, products that are robust and will last me a long time, through rain or shine. I decided to purchase a more expensive AR 15 Rifle, knowing that it would take me a lot longer than I originally planned, but that I would be a lot more satisfied with what I was able to do with my firearm.
That’s what brought me here to the higher end of the AR 15 budget scale, and I would encourage you to at least give it a thought.
Bravo Company Manufacturing Recce 16
Bravo Company Manufacturing (BCM) is one of the most respected manufacturers by far in the industry. They make very high quality products that aren’t outrageously expensive.
Their products are used by many of the elite fighting forces of the US and also by many in the civilian world who have come to know of BCM and their high quality items. BCM is good stuff.
The Recce 16 model from BCM is a great choice, offering many great advantages to you if you choose to buy from them. The whole idea behind a Recce rifle is that the shooter is able to use it at both close range and also reach out to farther distances.
The Recce 16 helps you do just this. BCM has a great system going for them with their Recce rifles, combining the features of lightweight and durability. This rifle comes with a Chrome lined barrel and chamber, lending to high accuracy and also longer barrel life.
BCM makes a really good lightweight rifle. The Recce 16, which has a 16 inch barrel and a great lightweight handguard, weighs in at 6.3 pounds.
This is actually as light or lighter than most of the rifles we’ve discussed so far, and that’s with a much more robust package. The fact that BCM has engineered their rifles this way speaks highly of their quality.
The Recce 16 features a free float handguard in either M-LOK or KMR configurations. It has a mid length gas system.
This is the gun that my brother-in-law chose for his personal AR 15, so I have had the opportunity to get a good amount of time shooting it and I can honestly say I have been really impressed with it.
Going with BCM for your AR 15 will definitely be a bit more expensive than some of the other options on the list, but it is my strong opinion that you’ll be getting a lot more for what you pay.
Aero Precision M4E1 - Best Overall AR-15 Rifle
Alright folks, we have arrived at the last rifle on the list, the Aero Precision M4E1 AR 15. This is the gun that I have chosen, after a lot of time spent on research, as the best AR-15 on this list.
In my opinion, Aero Precision makes the best AR 15 for the money. They offer some of the highest quality on the market today and they are becoming largely popular for that. They have come out with some really great products recently. For this rifle, I’m going to walk you through each of the parts of the rifle I have bought.
I started with the purchase of my M4E1 complete lower receiver. Aero’s lowers have become a staple in the AR 15 market. Aero Precision has actually made lowers for other companies that have been fairly well known as well, which shows that their lowers really are fantastic.
I bought mine with the Magpul SL-S stock, which offers a couple storage compartments right on the stock for batteries or whatever else. I am doing a mix of black and flat dark earth with my AR 15.
I am not truly “building” an AR 15 piece by piece, since that’s not something that I wanted to do at this point in time, so that is why I went with the complete lower, and also the complete upper that we’re going to talk about next.
This is the last thing that I have to purchase for my AR, the complete upper. As of right now, I am looking at the Atlas series for the handguard on a 16 inch barrel with a 15 inch handguard in flat dark earth.
Aero Precision has done great with their Atlas line of handguards and I think they are just fantastic. They have had the Atlas S-One for a little while now, which is a very slim, lightweight, free float handguard.
Aero just this year released their Atlas R-One handguard, which has the same features as the S-One, with a full section of picatinny rail along the top of the handguard. This series of rail, the Atlas series, is my favorite. I think that Aero has done a really great job with them.
I chose Aero Precision for a few reasons. I know that their products are high quality: I’ve done my research with reviews, asking others about their experience with Aero Precision, and shooting one myself. I know that this rifle will stand up to the test of time and also to whatever else I throw at it.
So as far as I am concerned, Aero Precision M4E1 with the Atlas series handgaurd is the best AR 15 for the money.
What AR 15 is Best for You?
I would highly recommend the Aero Precision M4E1 as the best AR 15 for the money. You can find a brand new one of these rifles for around $1,000. But if you feel like that is out of your budget, that is why I wrote this article the way that I did, so you could find what you feel like you are willing to spend and see a couple rifles that fit into that budget size.
Whatever you choose, have fun with it. Finding the best AR15 for the money should be a fun process. Choose what fits your wants and your needs. Do your research (we hope this article has helped with that). Get out there, be safe, and happy shooting.